TEXT OF STORY
Kai Ryssdal: As Dan Pallotta said, nonprofits are trying to figure out ways to survive especially in this economy, when the need for their services is more intense than ever. We didn’t have to go all that far to find out what that means in real life.
At five in the afternoon, the Los Angeles Boys & Girls Club is already humming.
Kids have been filtering in for hours.
Executive Director Juana Lambert shows us around.
Juana Lambert: So this is the games room and as you can see it’s very popular.
It’s a huge rec room with 25 or 30 boys crowded around a couple of ping pong tables.
Outside another dozen or so are playing on what Lambert hopes will soon be a brand new baseball diamond. In all, about 100 kids walk from school or are picked up in the club van every afternoon.
In the summertime, more than 300 show up for swimming lessons, soccer practice and supervision.
Because Lambert points out this isn’t the greatest neighborhood.
Lambert: We’re in the midst of four gang injunctions. Every single street here is a different gang with a different gang injunction and so our kids are constantly threatened by people who are trying to have them become members of their gang at middle school especially.
Caryl Scott’s picking up her little boy Davieon. He’s 10 years old. He’s been coming here for three years.
Caryl Scott: I mean it’s a place for him to come where he can come where he can have fun and do different things and meet different people and do different arts and crafts. I mean, you know, it’s just safer.
None of it’s cheap though, and the $15 that parents pay for the whole year — that’s right 15 bucks for the whole year — doesn’t cover all that much.
Director Juana Lambert worries that in the middle of a recession other fund’s going to dry up too.
Lambert: We’re very, very aware of the fact that our foundations are very cautious about the money that they’re giving. The city’s cut back, as of December 30th we’re losing one of our major grants from the city of Los Angeles. So we’re getting hit hard like everybody else.
Hit with the loss of more than 10 percent of her $700,000-a-year budget.
But upstairs the kids are blissfully unaware.
Ryssdal: Where do you think the money comes from to run this place?
Boy 1: From taxes that our parents pay?
Boy 2: From the government?
Boy 3: No way.
Boy 4: I think there’s a big machine and you put in a little coin and it makes money.
Always one wise guy, right?
Eight-year-old Kiara Lopez is next door. She’s sitting with her friends writing on a white board.
Ryssdal: What are you doing?
Kiara Lopez: We’re playing teachers.
Ryssdal: So, what’s your favorite part of the boys and girls club?
Lopez: Swimming pool.
Ryssdal: How come?
Lopez: Because you could swim and you could exercise and you could have fun.
Kiara says if she wasn’t at the club, she’d be at home.
Lopez: Sometimes me and my friend we take care of my brothers in the house. One of my brothers is three and the other one is one.
We ran into her mom at pick-up time.
She does find somebody to watch Kiara and her brothers but it’s a stretch given what she makes as a cleaning lady.
And that pressure on the family is what worries Juana Lambert.
She knows that as tough as things are for the club, they’re worse for the families it serves.
Lambert’s had to cut back hours for computer lab.
The art program might go. But she’s still bound and determined to build that baseball diamond out back.
Lambert: We just, we got to cut back but we got to make it. I’ve seen people give me articles and say see these other organizations are not doing their development. What are we going to do? We should cut back and not build our field. I’m going to try to build this field. Economy or no economy.
As a nonprofit news organization, our future depends on listeners like you who believe in the power of public service journalism.
Your investment in Marketplace helps us remain paywall-free and ensures everyone has access to trustworthy, unbiased news and information, regardless of their ability to pay.
Donate today — in any amount — to become a Marketplace Investor. Now more than ever, your commitment makes a difference.